OD needs to stop cross-dressing as Change Management in order to support the chaos of organizational life

Organizational life is characterized by a high degree of chaos, a chaos which creates a complex painful reality at the system, personal and interpersonal level.

Organizations pretend to deny/avoid the chaos via ERPs, structural changes and well defined processes, but the chaos bites them in the ass all the more, manifesting itself in a plethora of post-modern pathologies, such as collapse of trust, massive disengagement, toxic leadership and subjugation of common sense to grotesque IT dictated business processes.

Despite the need that exists to better cope with the brutality inflicted by chaos, OD is no longer a major player in this domain. OD sold its soul as it went through a vast array of changes and  these changes have negatively impacted  OD’s ability to survive. A few of the changes-

  • Commercialization
  • Productization
  • Dumbing
  • Crawling into bed with change management

OD rendered itself irrelevant in the very area in which it has most value. OD became a side show.

Why did these changes not position OD to move into the chaos pain mitigation domain more effectively?  Well, chaos is chaos. Coping with the complexities of chaos cannot be done by dumbed practitioners, using scalable models which promise the predefined deliverables a la change management.

The alternative to the commercialized OD product crap is not easy. Selling and practising the less structured, semi chaotic art of OD is real tough. OD that deals with coping with chaos is hard to define to the client. There is lots of artistic and eclectic improvisation on the way, and the output of such an OD effort is unmeasurable; the changes OD makes eventually creep into the system and people, alleviating a lot of the side effects of excess chaos. However, there is no “deliverable” as an output, enter-able into an ERP purchase request.

By conforming to the clients’ pathology instead of confronting it, we sold our soul.OD knows how to deliver a change in the critical underlying dynamics which sabotage flexibility. There is no need to pretend to be something else.

So where do we go from here? I believe that before OD supports clients’ chaos, we need to loosen up and deal with our own anxiety driven over-structuring. 

In the meantime, OD practitioners who want to help their clients cope with chaos would be wise to avoid all OD models, avoid the flight to spiritualism and desist from cross dressing as change managers.

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